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I first came upon the concept of “Canfield Oceans” in a fairly brief reference to it in Gwynne Dyer’s 2008 book “Climate Wars”.

I was shocked to think that such a mechanism has a realistic possibility of turning Global Warming into not just a human extinction event – but extinction of most life on earth – as apparently happened in 4 out of the 5 major mass extinctions in Earth’s history (the 5th being the asteroid that did in the dinosaurs).

However, I read more about the idea in Peter Ward’s 2007 book “Under a Green Sky”. (http://energyskeptic.com/2011/will-global-warming-drive-us-extinct/)

I was lucky to pick up that book for a couple of bucks off the discount table at a major bookstore. A half dozen or so copies of it had presumably found their way there because they were lousy sellers and nobody was interested in them.

That is, it would seem nobody was interested in the possible imminent (in geologic terms) extinction of all (90%+) life on Earth.

‘Nuff said!

Dave Cohen

Re: a canfield ocean

I first read about a "canfield" ocean when I read his original paper in the journal Science (1998)-- A new model for Proterozoic ocean chemistry. Nature 396:450–453.

For background, you can read here.


"About a decade ago, Canfield offered a very different possibility—that ventilation of the deep ocean lagged behind the Great Oxygen Event (GOE, about 2.3 billion years ago) by more than a billion years, resulting in a vast, deep reservoir of hydrogen sulfide, but long-held presumptions about photosynthetic life in the surface waters remained untouched..."

Back in 1998, I did not associate such a possibility with future oceans. Donald Canfield was talking about the Proterozoic -- "the period of Earth's history that began 2.5 billion years ago and ended 542.0 million years ago is known as the Proterozoic"


Now, I'm not so sure we might not eventually end up with oceans that look much like they did a billion years ago.

-- Dave


- We need to change from the tired old liberal paradigm (yeah, I'm sick of that word too...) 'people are all basically the same' to the opposite - 'people are all basically very different'. There ARE a few of us who think and feel differently from others in 'long-term oriented' areas.

This is only one of the near infinite ways, motivations, capabilities, biases, thought patterns, &etc, that people can be different.

Not that it'll do much good in the short term.

Dave Cohen

Re: This is only one of the near infinite ways, motivations, capabilities, biases, thought patterns, &etc, that people can be different

People are pretty much the same everywhere you look. The rare people who aren't like the others are the glaring exceptions who prove the rule. Many of my (relatively few) readers are glaring exceptions. That's why they read here.

And my ultimate conclusion is stronger still -- humans can't be any other way than they way they are.

-- Dave

john c. wilson

A few years back there was major media coverage of a published note that phytoplankton populations worldwide had decreased 40%. It wasn't like this was something that had been happening gradually. Almost all the loss happened in a couple decades. No reason to think the loss is slowing, plenty of plausible supposition it's accelerating. Without those phytoplankton humans will run out of oxygen to breathe. Say, did you hear about Lance Armstrong?

There's a TED lecture by a coral reef ecologist, Jeremy Jackson, that breaks the hopeful coda pattern. Jackson is a big guy in his field and leaves with a promise the oceans are in their last throes. It's not 200 years Dave. They're nearly dead now. Just still twitching a little.

Dave Cohen

John C. Wilson --

You seem to be a relatively new reader. Try these Google searches.



Jeremy Jackson


Destruction of the oceans


-- Dave

john c. wilson

Thank you.

Sometimes I see vestiges of rhetorical optimism here that perplex me. Not at all surprised you've covered the ground before. Will most likely read as long as you keep going.


The Russians will speed the the process of mass ocean extinctions along: http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/russian-oil-exploration-in-arctic-circle-causes-major-environmental-damage-a-851617.html

Mike Roberts

I think about this stuff a lot but I've got no illusions that humans will do anything about the destruction they wreak every day. It's like my note about the bird declines in Britain, that I mentioned yesterday. When I mentioned this to people in England, I was greeted with near indifference or denial by almost all of them.

Unlike you, though, I do worry about this stuff.

David Waddle

I used to get upset about these type of things. I finally figured out that nothing's going to change. There will never be a concentrated effort to save the oceans or the rest of the planet. It's just not going to happen. We humans are nothing special. We are part of the natural world. We just figured out how to exploit the rest of the natural world for our short term benefit. We will be here until we're not and that will be the end of it.

Alexander Ač

And with it, finally, a little bit a climate realism:

Prof Sir Bob Watson said that any hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C was "out the window".

He said that the rise could be as high as 5C - with dire consequences.




Alexander Ač

There is a lot of Hopium in that article, unfortunately:

Sir Bob added that deep cuts in CO2 emissions were possible using innovative technologies, without harming economic recovery.

"This doesn't take a revolution in energy technology - an evolution would get us there.

-- sorry for linking,



"...humans can't be any other way than they way they are..."


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